Pubdate: Thu, 10 Dec 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Sheryl Ubelacker
Page: A8


TORONTO - Alcohol remains the drug of choice for Ontario youth
according to the most recent biennial survey of Grade 7 to 12 students
by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Almost 46 per cent of the 10,426 respondents from across the province
reported having imbibed in the past year, said Robert Mann, a senior
scientist at CAMH who co-authored Wednesday's report.

"And that proportion increases with grade, so that by the time
students get to Grade 12, we see that slightly over 72 per cent used
alcohol in the past year," said Mann, adding that 29 per cent of
12th-graders engaged in what's considered hazardous consumption of

While the overall proportion of students who reported drinking alcohol
has dropped substantially in the past two decades - in 1999, 66 per
cent of students said they drank - about 18 per cent of this year's
survey respondents admitted to binge drinking at least once during the
previous month.

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one
occasion, said Mann.

"Binge drinking is dangerous, and we are concerned to see nearly 20
per cent of high schoolers report blacking out on at least one
occasion in the last year."

Also of concern was the finding that about a quarter of those who
drank alcohol did so at home with their parents' blessing.

"It's the first time we'd asked that question, and that's not just
having a sip of wine on a family occasion," he said. "This is being
allowed to drink at home with your friends.

"That number is surprising to me and it is higher than I might have
expected. And the large majority of these people are underage."

Mann said researchers aren't sure why some teens are allowed to drink
at home, but it may be because parents believe it's safer if it's done
under their supervision.

Studies suggest that young people who are permitted to tipple at home
are more likely to be heavy drinkers, he said.

The survey also found that 20 per cent of Grade 7 to 12 students
reported having used marijuana in the past year. Again, usage was
found to increase with age; 37 per cent of 12th graders admitted they
used pot.

Overall, almost nine per cent of students reported smoking tobacco - a
level that has remained static for the past few years, following a
steady decline over the past couple of decades. Prevalence of
cigarette smoking reached 15 per cent among Grade 12 students.

However, a higher proportion of students overall - 12 per cent -
reported puffing on electronic cigarettes, with or without nicotine,
compared to tobacco-based smokes.

Researchers also found that reports of non-medical use of
prescription opioids has dropped significantly, to 10 per cent of
students in 2015 from 21 per cent in 2007. Mann noted that most
respondents said they obtained the drugs at home, "presumably from the
family medicine cabinet."

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, conducted every two
years since 1977, is Canada's longest-running systematic study of
substance use among youth.
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